Manufacturing in the UK

The constitution of the United States contains a statement that "All men are born equal....", however nobody has made that claim about non human, and indeed non living things. If they were it would be impossible to reengineer processes.

Badly worded pun.

It’s in the Declaration of Independence rather than the Constitution, but now I see what you meant. Although I should imagine the likes of Aston Martin value their panel beaters rather more than their office cleaners.
Surely you and @bobthebuilder are just looking at the other side of the coin? Unlike people, materials, components, equipment, and process are not all of equal value, so it helps for people to know where the value is added? Why is it worth spending a few pennies more on more expensive connectors, why do some processes add more value than others, why is some plant a better investment than others, and so on?
We’re back to a understanding the concept of value; the only way to know if you understand the numbers. It’s only worth spending more money on a component if it adds to the value proposition offered to the customer (resulting in more sales or a higher margin) or it reduces downstream costs to the business (by reducing returns, warranty costs etc). If it does neither, it’s just cost that erodes margin.

Management accountants have a key part to play in running a business and business leaders and managers need to have a clear understanding of the numbers. Anything else dooms a business to failure

Lord Weinstock famously had five questions he asked of managers at GEC when he was on the shop floor; none of them were about widgets, they were all about the numbers.
......Lord Weinstock famously had five questions he asked of managers at GEC when he was on the shop floor; none of them were about widgets, they were all about the numbers.

I read his biography. He was certainly careful with the pennies!

ISTR the company had so much cash they didn't need bank loans and financed their own contracts.


MTD MFG: West Midlands Mayor backs Grayson Thermal Systems to become global electrification leader

Hundreds of jobs could be created in the West Midlands with zero-emission technology advancements creating global export opportunities for Grayson Thermal Systems.

That was the clear message presented to Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, during a recent visit to the firm’s Tyseley base, with bosses at the 44-year-old firm convinced that the switch to greener transport solutions presents a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity for their company and the region as a whole.

Managing Director Stuart Hateley believes the area’s traditional strengths in innovation and R&D are already paving the way for new contracts across the world and wants the Government to get behind this drive by making sure that all publicly funded projects feature initiatives that ensure UK-produced goods are given a boost.

His own company is doing its bit, recently investing £2m in R&D, employee upskilling and state-of-the-art testing technology to help it bring a range of zero-emission vehicle products to market that are now being sold into the battery, electric and hydrogen fuel cell, on-highway, off-highway and rail markets.

These solutions are headlined by its Battery Thermal Management System (BTMS), which keeps zero emission vehicles batteries at a stable temperature improving efficiency and extending life.

There has also been significant interest in its complete Vehicle Thermal Management System (VTMS), MagDrive Pump and Electric Water Heater, the latter providing an instant source of clean heat generation that can be transferred for passenger or driver comfort.

“West Midlands manufacturers have really embraced the electrification drive and are exploring ways where they can take conventional technology and transform it into products that will help OEMs achieve zero emission targets,” commented Stuart, who runs Grayson Thermal Systems with his brothers Ian and James.

"From the beginning of 2021 we have enjoyed significant success in the UK, mainland Europe, North America and even further afield with our new suite of products and this is just the start…the potential is huge, with £millions of contracts up for grabs that could create hundreds of jobs here and throughout the supply chain."


After a recent lack of manufacturing news, I saw something on MTD MFG that might interest some:

£138 million government investment brings green jobs to Dover

Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, today announced that electrical testing solutions company Megger Group has received a £138 million loan facility to help the company grow and invest in green technologies at its manufacturing headquarters in Dover.

UK Export Finance (UKEF) guaranteed 80% of the new loan provided by HSBC and Commerzbank, under the government’s Export Development Guarantee (EDG) program designed to drive major investments into a wide range of UK exporters.

This support will enable Megger to expand its UK exporting capacity and invest £15 million to enhance a major factory in Dover, a big boost to high skill green jobs in the region. The loan will also enable Megger to invest further in smart grid technology, such as sensors and cable analytics, and provide additional working capital to help the company fulfil overseas export contracts.
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Norfolk manufacturer turns supply chain challenge into innovation opportunity - The Manufacturer

With longer lead-times threatening to impact on the availability of their products, gas measurement specialists Chell Instruments looked to alternative suppliers and conducted a wider review of the components it uses within its technology.

“Though we hadn’t experienced any serious delays, we took the decision to pre-empt any disruption by evaluating alternative microprocessors and suppliers” says Jamie Shanahan, Sales Director of Chell Instruments.

The global supply of computer chips has been adversely impacted by the pandemic, with a drop in manufacturing caused by lockdowns, particularly in Asia, followed by a rise in demand as markets in Europe and North America have recovered.

“We pride ourselves on using the best components to give our customers the critical dependability and precision they need” adds Jamie.

“It turned into an opportunity to do a root-and-branch review and evaluate some alternatives which have ended up improving not only supply, but also functionality and future capabilities.”

Chell Instruments designs, manufactures and calibrates testing apparatus used in areas including Formula One, aircraft design and pharmaceuticals. Its high-tech products incorporate a wide range of microchips and microprocessors.

As well as avoiding major supply issues, back-to-back comparison of key microprocessors has further improved performance and Chell Instruments’ ability to develop the capabilities of existing products.

As a result of the diversification of suppliers, the Norfolk-based specialist has been able to maintain or reduce lead times throughout its range and swiftly fulfil orders received from across the globe.


Also it is good news that manufacturing and related activities are returning to Dagenham.

New manufacturing facility to rise on Ford’s Dagenham estate - The Manufacturer

MS-RT is a design-led automotive engineering company creating bespoke Ford vehicles. Its range comprises the Ford Transit Connect MS-RT, Ford Transit Custom MS-RT and Ford Ranger MS-RT, with vehicles sold to consumers through Ford Transit Specialist dealers throughout the UK. MS-RT has a licence agreement with M-Sport, which operates a global motorsport business on the circuits of the world’s most acclaimed motorsports series. The business has a full-service customisation offering incorporating research and design through to manufacturing and after sales support.

Santander UK has provided MS-RT with a £2.3m funding package enabling it to develop its new premises on the site of Ford’s main UK manufacturing plant. The funding supports its investment to fully refurbish the facility with state-of-the-art paint facilities, a semi-automated production line, extensive warehousing, and a design and engineering studio. The Dagenham facility has Freeport status enabling more cost-effective exports, primarily to Europe, with the UK initially being its prime volume market.


This is out of this World:

Benchmark Space Systems kicks off European expansion with major propulsion contract with Space Forge - The Manufacturer

With a new major propulsion contract signed to support Space Forge’s in-space manufacturing mission, Benchmark Space Systems has announced it has opened a manufacturing and testing facility Northwest of London to build a regional team and its Starling and Halcyon propulsion systems to help empower the flourishing European space sector.

The agreement brings together two of the fastest growing space tech startups in the UK and US that share an energy and passion for pushing innovation to further drive the accessibility and sustainability of space.

Space Forge and Benchmark will co-develop reusable generations of Benchmark’s chemical propulsion systems to power Space Forge’s returnable and re-launchable ForgeStar satellites. The spacecraft can be deployed from conventional launchers to carry out in-space manufacturing then reliably return to Earth with pinpoint accuracy, propelled by a variety of brief and continuous thruster burns, to enable the delivery of products and materials made in space.


On a continuing space theme:

Lockheed Martin works with specialist cleanroom lifting company

But the project didn't come without its challenges. Lockheed Martin Space UK needed a versatile and portable solution to lift spacecraft and supporting equipment through a unique concept of operations within the tight constraints of the facility.

Due to the limited height access routes into the cleanrooms and the need for operation in different cleanrooms of the SIL, it was a challenge for in-house design and engineering team. They had to devise a solution to move with the load and adjust the crane to different height constraints of the facility in a safe and efficient way.

The solution was a bespoke gantry structure featuring a purpose build control solution.

The modular and adjustable design approach used for the gantry structure allowed it to be moved through the facility passing through double doorways to be operated in different cleanroom environments within the facility.

Barry Watson, Senior Ground Systems Engineer from Lockheed Martin Space UK said: "It was great working with Hoist UK to develop this solution to enable us to move spacecraft and its supporting equipment. The gantry crane is an essential piece of ground support equipment used at the Harwell SIL which processes the SL-OMV as part of the UK's first vertical launch programme, known as Pathfinder. It is simple to use, has good control and is easily configured to changing operational requirements."

Paul Jordan, Technical Director of Hoist UK added: "Working on bespoke and unique lifting projects like this alongside leading world class companies such as Lockheed Martin gives me pride and shows that the UK is open and that we are able to design and build real life engineering solutions, when commercially off the shelf equipment is not suitable for the application of the customer."


Three road vehicle related stories:

BMW opens new steel pressing facility at Swindon plant - MTD MFG

BMW Group board member for production, Dr. Milan Nedeljković, formally opened a new automated steel pressing facility at the company’s Swindon plant today. The new press will produce steel panels for the MINI plant in Oxford at twice the rate of the old equipment which it replaces, with the steel blanks and finished panels handled by a new fleet of Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs).

PTC’s design capability puts CUPRA vehicle development in the fast lane with 100% electric racecar - MTD MFG

The power of PTC technology has helped CUPRA, a Spanish automotive brand with a clear focus in racing, build the first ever 100% electric racecar.

CUPRA, an unconventional challenger brand with racing in its DNA, has been working with the IoT specialist for more than two decades and continues to invest heavily in embracing the full functionality of PTC’s Creo (CAD) and Windchill PLM solutions.

The BAC Mono R Supercar reaches full speed - MTD MFG

BAC continues production, and delivery, of the new Mono R – a higher-performance, lighter and more advanced new generation of the iconic Mono supercar. Produced in very limited numbers, the Mono R is one of the most exclusive supercars in the world.

The 25th customer car will soon leave BAC’s Liverpool manufacturing centre, which has seen recent investment in staffing, technology and manufacturing capability and sits alongside the recently opened innovation centre. Bespoke creations are at the heart of Mono, with each car built to a unique specification agreed with the BAC team after hours of client consultation, ensuring no two Mono Rs are the same. Mono R continues to be distributed around the world and will be on display at a number of new global dealer partners situated in the USA, Singapore, and Germany.


This is not a thread about road vehicles only: Model train manufacturer Hornby secures £12m facility from Secure Trust Bank

Leading UK model train manufacturer, Hornby, has secured a £12m combined facility to support its requirement for working capital over the coming years, to meet demand and serve the global market.

The company, which trades as Hornby Hobbies Ltd, secured the facility from Secure Trust Bank Commercial Finance. It is made up of a £6m accounts facility and a £6m inventory facility.

Hornby, which has its headquarters at Margate in Kent, develops, produces, and supplies hobby and toy products to the global market. Founded in 1901, Hornby brands also include Scalextric, Airfix, Humbrol, and Corgi. With offices in the UK, America, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy, the company employs over 200 staff globally.

Following a resurgence for the business in recent years and a new management team in 2017, there has been a substantial turnaround, with a growth in sales and a return to profit. In 2019, Hornby reported revenue of £32.6m, which increased to £37.6m in 2020 and £45.9m in 2021.


What a wide range of things are manufactured in the UK!

FRESH PRODUCE JOURNAL - Tong unveils new factory

With an annual turnover of over £19 million, and engineering roots dating back to 1930, Tong Engineering has over 90 years of experience in manufacturing advanced and efficient vegetable handling equipment, from single machines to complete, custom-built handling solutions.

Now exporting world-class equipment to more than 50 countries worldwide, Tong offers a vegetable handling solution for a wide range of crops and vegetables, from potatoes, onions and carrots, to parsnips, brussel sprouts, swedes and more.


Also from The Manufacturer: Pioneering cross border collaboration provides crucial support to UK forging and forming community

The Henry Royce Institute (Royce), the national institute for advanced materials research and innovation, has welcomed the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) – a centre within the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland Group, as an Associate Partner.

Poised to share equipment and expertise with their respective networks, the two organisations will offer forging and forming houses opportunities to access the latest facilities and ground-breaking capabilities to explore sustainable manufacturing methods and reduce costs.

The partnership is launching with the AFRC, one of seven UK centres that are part of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, taking delivery of a Schuler precision linear forge, originally destined for the Henry Royce Institute.

The equipment’s arrival will allow manufacturing businesses to tap into forging technology that can potentially increase energy efficiency and reduce cycle times during production.

Joining forces with Royce’s Founding Partners – the Universities of Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College London, as well as the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and Associate Partner Cranfield University, the AFRC and its customers and partners will benefit from a direct link to the institute’s academic and industrial community, supporting industrial R&D requirements and readiness.


Back to talking about specific companies and sectors, here is a story about a 'gas turbine machining specialist':

Sheffield manufacturer to create 32 local jobs following £9.7m investment project

Sheffield based Advanced Manufacturing Ltd (AML) has secured a £1.98m investment from South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, which will see it create 32 new jobs.

The funding will help the gas turbine machining specialist to launch and roll out AML Accelerate, a programme designed to “stimulate rapid growth”, which will transform the business from a single site with 50 staff and a £5m turnover to over 80 staff and two sites with a £12m turnover.

AML’s Accelerate programme will see the company investing in three new innovative, “state-of-the-art” advanced manufacturing cells at a total cost £3.9m, which will enable it to carry out testing of new techniques for clients in its three global target sectors: aero-defence, defence and civil nuclear markets.

AML will work closely alongside the AMRC, the two Sheffield universities and local supply chain to develop cost disruptive, technology-led manufacturing approaches which will expand AML’s manufacturing capacity and capabilities.

In addition, the funding will be put towards significant leasehold improvements at the factory as well as ongoing recruitment, training and staff development costs. The whole project will cost £7.7m, with the remainder being funded by AML and its asset finance company.

Out of the new jobs set to be created, AML is planning that 25 of these will be machinists or engineers with specialisms in highly skilled roles. AML also expects to employ 12 apprentices from the local area and help them to develop and progress in the business with long term careers.
The problem with using a 30 year old tv programme as an example is that the world has moved on. A long way.

Today’s Morgan would be near unrecognisable to Harvey-Jones; it’s moved from building 1930s products the way they were built in the 30s to being a prime example of modern niche manufacturing. A modern Morgan may look vaguely similar, but it’s built using state-of-the art engineering.

As for the PDCA Cycle, I’ve no idea if Morgan use it. Probably not; it’s now often recognised as being too slow and inflexible for modern iterative manufacturing. There are alternatives….
Peter Morgan came to our gaff in 2000, and the boss showed him around my workshop, at this time it was a 4 man (including me as foreman / manager) set up making suspension / radiators and various pitgear (pitgear for several F1 teams at one point after this!).

Anyhow, we had acres of 316 stainless bits and bobs in the pitgear area and his attention was drawn to a load of oval 1/8" thick 316 SS shapes on a surface table, ......used to blank stainless tube cut at an angle.

"How long did it take someone to make all those?" he said.

"Dunno mate" says me, "I email an IGES or DXF file to a water jet machine in Redditch and they cost about 80p each I think, all done remotely, some bloke just chucks a sheet of metal on and the machine works out the nesting etc. and best use"

He was gobsmacked, had never heard of the process, which was the norm in places I had worked for ages, not just racing but any small engineering outfit.

They (Morgans) did modernise a fair bit in the next few years and upped production, bringing in more modern systems to keep up, to the point that my apprentice when he left me, actually refused a job offer there as so little "proper" old school skills in his area (fabrication) were being employed.

The "highlight" of his tour being a big faff about banging in a few louvers on a flypress in a bonnet panel, on simple bends on a roller, and simple knocking over and wrapping panels, very little traditional stuff as a Morgan is not exactly curvy so no complex wheeling etc. needed apart from a bit of shape on the front guards.

"Hand finished" more and more are most "hand built" cars, due simply to time / budget vs. what you can charge restraints.

He now works in a restoration place doing Buggattis and the like to folk who want the whole job painstakingly done by hand the old way, at any cost as they are minted and want the best.......

This is the sort of shape he can magic out of sheet.........

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I am sure that a previous post mentions the innovations of Alloy Wire International...

Alloy Wire International promises ‘security of supply’ with largest ever stand at Wire 2022 - MTD MFG

He continued: “Every decision we made during Covid-19 was taken to ensure we continued to give the same level of manufacturing quality and reliable delivery, and this has paid off with the start of this year turning out to be our busiest yet, something we hope to build on at Wire 2022.

“Our biggest ever stand will have display cases with sample round, flat and shaped wire alongside a video screen showing behind-the-scenes manufacturing processes of wire being produced in our factory in the UK.”

Alloy Wire International will use the industry’s largest show to introduce INCONEL: 617®, a nickel-chromium-cobalt-molybdenum-aluminium alloy.

This is its latest addition to a 60+ range of alloys and delivers a combination of increased strength and stability at elevated temperatures (up to 1100°C/2012°F), whilst retaining the high temperature resistance of INCONEL® alloy 601.

It has been a busy period for the firm’s R&D programme, which has also just started testing and production trials of INCONEL® alloy 686 ahead of a potential launch at the end of 2022.

Old Scribes

About a million years ago I attended a University careers event and they was probably a stand from Rolls Royce. I picked up a booklet from them and it had the usual things, including pieces written by recent graduate recruits. There was a girl who had joined as an accountant, however her training programme included spending time on the shop floor and learning a bit about fitting and turning, electromechanical assembly, and so on.

Is that unusual - for the people who control the money and things like purchasing to actually have an idea of what the company actually does?
When I left school in January 1963 I went to work in an engineering company who produced stone cutting and polishing machines and also cranes of all types. Although I was to be employed in the sales and estimating division, I spent a month or so in each department on the shop floor in order that I had a good understanding of all the components that made up the finished product. The idea was that by having a good knowledge of how the parts were made etc - there wiould be less chance of errors in quoting a price for a part to a customer if I understoiod what raw material was required and the time taken to machine the part.
When I left school in January 1963 I went to work in an engineering company who produced stone cutting and polishing machines and also cranes of all types. Although I was to be employed in the sales and estimating division, I spent a month or so in each department on the shop floor in order that I had a good understanding of all the components that made up the finished product. The idea was that by having a good knowledge of how the parts were made etc - there wiould be less chance of errors in quoting a price for a part to a customer if I understoiod what raw material was required and the time taken to machine the part.
This was S.O.P. back in the day in medium to larger Engineering / Aircraft / Car firms, especially for drawing office types who would as you say then have a better understanding of what the capabilities of the firms staff and inventory were able to actually make, and the processes involved.

CAD systems and graduates have caused me and others no end of grief in my career as they think you just click on a few points, connect the dots and hey presto, impressive shiny new thing,

Often without any regard to if the material spec they call for can actually be formed or indeed will work (have mentioned before a couple of tales)...Scary part is that this is in F1 where you would think it would be very strict and stuff would be signed off.

Nope...have seen some right clangers signed and drawn by blokes who are now heads of design for top teams! names but teams like Arrows, Benetton and Renault have all supplied drawings where myself ( a CSE educated expelled from Comprehensive school metal basher) has had to ring up and say;

"Well actually...this will break / can't be mate mate"

That's why it was done, at say Swindon rail works in the past you may have 10 geezers with 250 years combined experience in all aspects of a job in a given small workshop, no way in hell someone fresh out of Uni can hope to top that.

The smart ones always pop down with a drawing to the relevant dept. and ask for advice, as none of them want the guys with dirty hands up in their office showing them up!

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